I am an anxious person. This aspect of my personality held me prisoner for many many years, until I began to use some techniques that helped me to decrease my anxiety, or in some instances, to use that additional adrenalin to my advantage.
Anxiety played a big part in both the development and the maintenance of my eating disorder, anorexia nervosa. For me, I can easily equate anxiety to fear. I would like to share some ideas and tools that might be helpful to any of you who also struggle with the grip of anxiety in your lives.
PLAY IT UP!!
When you are feeling intense anxiety, first of all, talk about it with someone, or write about it if you are alone. Then write about it again, only this time, play it up, make it as dramatic as you can by including what your fears about that specific anxiety could become. Once again, write about it, again, embellishing it, going to the extreme to challenge the reality of the particular fear/issue of anxiety. You will likely find that it becomes actually humorous at this point, and you are able to laugh at it.
DISTRACT, DISTRACT, DISTRACT
This technique is quite different from the one above, but I personally found this to be very helpful.
Sometimes you just need to stop thinking. Of course it’s impossible to really completely stop thinking, but sometimes, we need to not think about a certain thing so much. It grows the more we focus on it. So in this case, stop reading the self-help books and watch a movie, do a word puzzle, play with your cat (cats!), and surround yourself with people you are comfortable with, if possible. ‘Getting out of your head’ can be very freeing sometimes.
COUNT YOUR BREATHS
I have found this to be very effective for my own anxiety issues. It’s a combination of distracting, while also taking in some very cleansing and invigorating oxygen!
Simply say out loud, “one” as you inhale, and “two” as you exhale, remembering to breathe from your diaphragm, not from your chest. This has a way of silencing some of the ‘talk’ going on in your head, as you focus on your breathing. This can be effective in calming down the hysteria that often accompanie anxiety.
STAYING IN THIS MOMENT-Breaking the Day Down
This helps when anxiety is causing your mind to race ahead, and you find that you are worrying about things that will take place hours or even days from the present time. Silent (or aloud) reminders to yourself that you only have to think about ‘this moment’, can help relieve the anxiety that may come with thoughts (or fears/assumptions) of times to come. This may bring a true peace that everything is just fine ‘right now’.
USE VISUAL/TACTILE ANCHORS
Is there something in nature that always gives you a peaceful feeling? Or a photograph? Is there a certain ‘sound’ that is calming? You can download that sound on your ipod or find a relaxation tape with certain calming sounds. Is there a special momento or heirloom that evokes happy thoughts or memories? Hold it in your hand, or put it in your pocket where you know you can touch it if you have a hard moment. As an example, I have a hematite stone that I carry in my left pocket EVERY DAY. My reasons are not necessarily anxiety-related, but it does hold meaning for me.
This is much like ‘self-talk’, but only focusing on the positive, calming messages, and speaking them aloud. Examples may include: “I am enough”, “I don’t have to be perfect”, “May I feel joy today”, “Fill my heart with love”, etc. Personalize your message!!
This is very healing for all of us, in many ways. Laughter has been proven to decrease pain, heal wounds, fight off viruses, and it’s a wonderful distraction from anxiety! Can you remember a time when spontaneous laughter broke the hold that your anxiety held over you? Why not try a doubled-over belly laugh right now???